They say it’s not the name, but what is associated with the name that stands out. When I hear the name Brett Hagler, Founder and CEO of New Story Charity, the words grit, determination, hustle, willpower, generous, and purpose-driven ring loud and clear. For the past year and a half, I have followed Brett’s journey from being admitted into Y Combinator Accelerator Program to where he is today. Brett is the quintessential entrepreneur who has carved his own unique path, a path I aspire to emulate in my own career.
New Story was founded in 2014 after Brett returned from Haiti on a mission trip from his revived Christian faith. Brett saw the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that uprooted homes and communities, which sank the country into a deeper hole of poverty.
As the quote goes, “in every crisis there’s an opportunity” and immediately Brett formed an idea to fix the problems he saw. First, Brett wanted to solve the problem of homelessness for these environments shaken by mother nature. Second, he wanted to do so with full transparency so people donating could see exactly how their money was being used.
Before long, New Story Charity was formed. And today, they have built 640 homes in 2 years, 6 communities, all in 3 different countries.
Their traction begs the question, how did they do It?
From the outside, one would think Y Combinator was the spark that lifted them into the entrepreneurial heavens, but it is what they did in the dark that brought them into the light. When asking Brett about what they did before their acceptance, you could tell his determination to make New Story Charity work while disregarding the potential costs.
In Paul Graham’s famous article, New Story Charity took the approach to do things that don’t scale.
For the first people who made donations, they sent them videos from the New Story team thanking them for their contribution. Brett talked about treating the first 100 users with extreme care to make them love you and love your product. Brett was the guy messaging every single one of his Facebook friends and asking them to donate so they could reach their weekly donation goals. Brett and his team were also extremely adamant about setting quantifiable and tangible goals that were attainable. In the early days, they set weekly goals of raising between $1,000 to $2,000.
New Charity worked with a local construction team that had already built hundreds of homes that we wanted our homes to mimic. The charity received the line item costs that went into building the homes, reached an agreement with the company that all homes would be a flat $6k (despite small local price variations), and then helped to hold each other accountable for funding and building.
Other tech companies should take note of that New Story Charity built their first site on the least tech possible. Brett spoke about how they had a “fake” crowdfunding page, so when people donated money, their admins on the backend of the site would manually have to go in and update the total.
This “Fake it until you make it approach/style” has continued on today. In 2015 New Story Charity did a PR Stunt opening up Nasdaq.
When asking Brett on the phone about this, he mentioned how New Story has nothing to do with Nasdaq, but it was about associating their brand with another brand. The stunt worked effectively as people still ask him about this story today.
Last but not least, Brett spoke of the time his team set a goal to fund 100 homes in 100 days. When they started, they had no idea or plan of how they would achieve this goal. Not only did they reach their goal, but they did it 9 days ahead of schedule. Ultimately, what has allowed for New Story’s success is Brett’s vision and his relentless nature to be great and impact lives around him.
But apparently this is just the beginning …
Visions Evolve, but Frameworks don’t
When asking Brett about how his vision has changed, he said “I began to realize we weren’t just building houses. We were building communities.” When New Story Charity first started, the goal was to just build one house at a time, but as that vision became easier to achieve, his focus and realm of possibility expanded. So much so that his vision is to build 10,000 communities in 10 years. Yes, the vision has evolved, but Brett has maintained that the framework stays the same … Meaning the principles which helped them stay successful in the beginning are rooted in their foundation.
Friendly Human Video: (New Story)
New Story Charity’s Opportunistic Philosophy on Social Media
One of the best takeaways when speaking with Brett was his candid response about how his team uses social media. The New Story Team shares the philosophy of sharing 90% opportunity and 10% reality. When I asked Brett to explain what this meant, he replied “The reality can depressing, but why show that reality when there is so much opportunity to make a worldwide difference.” And this all goes back to the New Story Brand — from Day 1 they have embodied a brand that gives a sense of hope for others in need and they are proudly serving that mission every day.
Donor Transparency & How New Story Funds themselves
Brett started out because of the problem he saw in Haiti: the lack of transparency with non-profits receiving millions of dollars but not disclosing where the money was going. New Story Charity’s promise is that for every dollar donated to their charity, it goes directly to funding a house. They send the donor a video of exactly what they are funding and supporting.
As it goes for the team, Brett has established incredible relationships with whom he calls the “Builders” who fund the internal team who believe in the mission. They have so much faith in New Story’s success that the team has roughly 3 years of burn rate (meaning they technically have enough money to fund their operation until 2020)!
Building a Great Team and Establishing Credibility
Brett mentioned the most rewarding aspect of his job is waking up with amazing team members who he gets to stand shoulder to shoulder with everyday. Team members who are smarter than he is who share a common vision to create positive change in the world.
The pursuit of their team has also allowed them to attract the right people to help their brand gain traction.
Brett shared how leveraging credible names and organizations behind his vision has heavily attributed to New Story’s success. For example, when you go on the New Story’s site, you can see advisors whom they associate with that are extremely well known, such as David Butler and Brad Feld. Brett said that as a startup, no one knows about you, or your product, and the more you can align with other organizations to get your name out there, the better.
It only seems with New Story’s growth, the people they have behind them, and their vision, that they are only going to continue attract great people and make the world a better place one community at a time.
Brett’s Speaking Preview
Brett’s Parting Words | Advice to Entrepreneurs
“In Order to Gain You Life, You have to give up your life”
You can email Brett at email@example.com
Follow New Story Charity on FB: https://www.facebook.com/newstorycharity/
Follow New Story Charity on IG: https://www.instagram.com/newstorycharity/
I want to change the world. It is not a dream or vision but a reality that I am able to change the world for the better. I figured this out while visiting New York, New York. For my 16th birthday present, my parents took me and my best friend sightseeing for the weekend.
The night before we left to go home, we visited Ray’s Pizza, which had been personally recommended to me. This was, in fact, one of the primary reasons I wanted to visit, for the fabled New York style pizza.
We had gotten three whole pizzas all topped with unique toppings for the four of us to split, and I was carrying the box with the few slices leftover. I was admittedly walking slower than normal because of the large amount of hot cheesy pizza, and so maybe that was what caused me to notice the homeless man half-asleep on the edge of the sidewalk.
Most people in New York City are so busy they don’t notice, or pretend not to notice, the large amount of unfortunate people without homes. I was planning on eating the pizza I held in my hands for breakfast the next morning.
I was not compelled by guilt nor did I feel any responsibility for his condition, instead I acted on what was an obvious wrong that I could make right. He was hungry. I had food. Our conversation lasted no more than thirty seconds; the look of surprise and gratitude in his eyes stays with me to this day. On that day, I discovered just how easy it is to change a life.
The price of the pizza was not the important part; however, the gesture of giving what I did not need was where I found the breakthrough. Because of my interaction in New York, I have found new discoveries that I want to dive into. I want to know why it is right for me to get an iPhone 6 for Christmas, while other people my age do not have a dinner on Christmas. I want to know why it is acceptable for me to have luxuries yet some do not have necessities.
I am not tackling world hunger or extreme poverty by giving away some pizza, but I do believe I can personally change the world for the better. I want to learn how I can drastically improve the lives of those who I interact with. It now seems like common sense when I tell people that I want to help people. Who doesn’t?
That is something that is best discovered on your own. Today, I give back by participating in Virginia Tech Relay For Life – which has raised over $5 million for cancer research and patient services. Join me today to make a difference in the lives of millions.
Did you ever once have that crazy idea in your head that maybe in possibly the slightest way imaginable could become an incredible venture that takes your life to the place you finally wish it to be?
Maybe you’re just bored sitting in class daydreaming, wondering if the idea in your head has been invented yet. Why let these dreams fade away when the bell rings? Why not make these ideas into realities? Well, that’s what I did.
I decided it was time for some change in my life. I was tired of being bored to death in class disregarding why x should equal z in this equation. Why does it matter that x equals z? Why does anything matter other than the fact that I want to get out of this cliche world and go on an adventure? Make a change. Do something different. Finally follow the path my mind so blatantly paves day after day.
A company with my very own idea. My very own mission. My very own goal. With me as my own boss and no one telling me to make sure x equals z or you fail.
It didn’t start out all as fairytales. The reality is, to follow an idea, you have to believe in it. You have to want your dream to succeed more than anything in the world. If you believe that, you will succeed.
What is the idea you ask? … A clothing line. But not just any clothing line. Something unique that no one else has. Something that gives back to the community to help create social change in our world. Something like Ekkos.
Founded in summer of 2015, Ekkos is now a legitimate clothing line that provides secondary education for orphans in Africa. With unique patterns and professional seamstresses that hand craft each product one by one, Ekkos has gone from an idea in my brain in the middle of calc class to a dream that has been more successful than I could have ever imagined.
I made a change in my life that so many young people are afraid to make. But I encourage you. All of you, to roll with the ideas in your head that you so often think of and make something of yourself that the 20 year old you would be proud of.
It doesn’t matter if x equals z. What matters is that your’re living the life you always dreamed of. Whether it be an adventurous one, or a cautious one. Do what makes you happy.
If you enjoyed this article, please take the time to visit Ekkos at ekkos.org and see how we are changing the world through a dream imagined in the middle of calc class.
We at the Wish Dish would like to thank the END IT Movement for sharing their story. There is more than one type of slavery and this issue far from being a far off historical memory. Join the Movement and Shine a Light on Slavery day, February 25th. Learn more by contacting Trevor Bramblett: Trevorbramblett@uga.edu
What does it take to wake a sleeping giant?
No predators, no threats, total comfort.
He sleeps for fear of nothing and wakes only to satisfy his insatiable
O, how slumber numbs his prowess; how it seeps into his bones,
crippling him. To think of what he slumbers through!
And what shall wake him?
He rose to the sounds of gunshots firing from the hands of a divided nation. An entire continent at war with itself stirred him from his sleep. Japanese bombs upon his own skin caused burns he could not ignore.
An attack destroying the towers that stood for the very freedom he slept in ached his heart with a fire for justice. Today the world reeks of an ugly injustice – the source of the stench everywhere, even our own backyard.
Modern day slavery is not extinct…in fact, it is thriving now more than it ever has in history. Slavery today is clandestine and lucrative, boasting annual profits of $150 billion from victimizing some 27 million people. 27 million people…that makes slavery the 47th most populated country in the world; 47th out of 196.
The numbers bear plainly the truth and the statistics tell the story yet, he sleeps – the giant. And what shall wake him? His ears catch wind – stories shared as awareness is raised. His fingers twitch, life awakening in them, as they yearn for action. His toes, once cold and lifeless, feeling the rush of blood as hope wells up. Ever so slowly, he wakes, his parts ever so sensitive to the reality not of slumber but of slavery.
And what shall wake him? The finger being the finger and the ear being the ear – each part not yearning to leave the giant to become action, but to become action to lead the giant. Not lying dormant, paralyzed by uncertainty and hopelessness, but leveraging what they have and where they are. For it is not in numbers that he stirs, but in heart when he sees his parts coming to motion.
And what shall he wake? He stands, walks, leaving behind deep footprints in his wake. The ground shakes at his impact – he relentlessly pursues that foul wretched stench, strangely stepping that the wickedness is crushed yet the lowly remain– free at last.
We can’t all be on the ground fighting, rescuing people and convicting criminals, but we are here. We all have freedom and as a result, we all have a voice – a voice able to speak for those who cannot speak up for themselves. We can choose to believe that though we may not see it everyday, modern day slavery is the reality for millions of people.
We can do our part to raise awareness. We must, because the hope and freedom we are given is the hope and freedom for them. And it comes in small, steady steps. On February 25th everyone is raising their voice to “Shine a Light on Slavery.”
We are wearing shirts with a red X on it. We are initiating conversations with the people around us. Even now, we are donating to the 27X7 team – an online campaign that raises money to directly fund the efforts in the field to bring freedom to those who are trapped in slavery (https://give.enditmovement.com/team/UGA). The tide of freedom is rising. Free people free people, and oh are we free.
More college students are traveling and volunteering abroad than ever before.
I have volunteered with multiple organizations in multiple countries, seeking a combination of work and travel experience. My desire to see the world and work abroad is by no way unique; my generation, more than any previously, is interested in supporting initiatives that “better the world.”
We are concerned with increasing the welfare of people globally, invested in philanthropic societies and ideals. However, while we are avid supporters of good causes, we hardly ever criticize the programs and organizations that serve them. In an era when we are so focused on development and volunteerism, it is important that we look at the ideologies that are driving certain programs, and the program’s unintended results.
The generally held belief is that money invested in impoverished women is more likely to be invested back into the family, as women are “instinctively maternal” and will want to improve their family’s well-being.
Sounds good right? These programs seem to be empowering women, and directly focus on families in need of additional income. However, if we investigate the ideologies and theories driving these programs, there are serious weaknesses in the way in which development has been conceptualized and implemented. Maternal altruism is one of the persisting limitations with development ideology and practice particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Maternal altruism, as defined by Richard Schroeder, is the “ideology that stipulates that women are, by virtue of their identities as mothers and wives, ‘naturally’ predisposed toward nurturing and self-sacrifice,” (Schroeder, 9).
Maternal altruism is the driving force behind many women-centered development programs.
The inherent assumption of maternal altruism is that women’s own aspirations are heroically neglected in order to prioritize the needs of their family members.
Further, by characterizing women as a homogeneous group defined by selflessness, “maternal altruism” also erases class, race, or any kind of individuality that may influence women’s motivations to take care of family members or perform traditional work. It is an ideology that encourages the ascription of sameness. The elimination of diversity of body and belief amongst women in developing nations makes all hundreds of millions of them a single uniform group.
Does she have something balancing on her head? A baby strapped to her back? Is she standing in a field? Holding a bucket of water? All of these images portray a woman defined by maternal altruism. These are the only pictures we see of “African women” in development campaigns. I do not believe these pictures are staged; women do fetch water, they do take care of children, and they do preform agricultural work.
My problem with these images is that development organizations and the public are taking them at face value. No one is asking why. Why are you preforming the agricultural work? Is it really because you only have interest in ensuring that your family has something to eat or is it because it is your ethnic custom? Is it because it is your only source of income?
If it is, would you rather be doing something else? What would that be and what do you need to do it? Many development non-profits invest in women’s agricultural work to better ensure family food stability. While full stomachs are a noble cause, these programs need to be asking if women aspire to do something else.
When I volunteered at Give a Heart To Africa (GHTA) in Moshi, Tanzania last summer, I worked for an organization that focused on women. GHTA’s school aimed to give local women the tools and skills they need to open their own small business. My students had widely different interests; Mariamu wanted to expand her current business, Esther wanted to open a fabric shop, Tausi wanted to be an English translator, and Faraha wanted to be able to read English books to her kids at night.
Each woman had an invested interest in their family, but also had interests of their own. The diversity of aspiration in one small school shatters the notion of maternal altruism. We would never expect women in the US to universally forgo personal interests for those of the family. We would never categorize US mothers as a homogeneous group.
There are bad mothers, ambitious mothers, childless women who do not fit the idyllic category put forth by the ideology. The fact is, there are bad mothers, ambitious mothers, and childless women in developing nations, so why do we hold them to a different standard?
Why do some development organizations throw the blanket of maternal altruism over all of these women? Because we, as non-profit supporters, volunteers, and fundraisers, allow them to. As consumers on the development market, we can use our “purchasing power” by investing in organizations that have well-constructed programs; programs that do not ascribe homogeneity to their recipients, programs that give people the power to make their own choices.
We, as college students, are the largest group ever to be invested in development initiatives. Whether by volunteering, fundraising, or raising awareness we often support the operations of organizations without truly understanding the ramifications behind their actions.
We receive the benefit of feeling good about contributing to “bettering the world,” and walk away before we witness the aftermath, or look too closely at the labels we place on those receiving a program’s benefits. By turning a critical eye to non-profit organizations and their work, we can influence the way in which future programs are constructed.
I have been given the amazing opportunity to be on the executive board for the 2015- 2016 Relay For Life at Virginia Tech. I was not given just a board of fellow peers and students to work with to plan the event this year…I was given a family.
Throughout the fall semester we grew from just a group of single individuals meeting each other for the first time into something so cohesive and wonderful. We all complement each other and help each other grow and flourish so that we can put on the best Relay For Life event that we can.
When you are apart of such a big event like Relay For Life especially at Virginia Tech where we are the largest collegiate Relay For Life in the world you always get the question so why are you involved in an event like this. Whenever I am asked this question I could talk your ear off for hours about the many different reasons as to why I want and love to be apart of Relay For Life.
Yes, the majority of people that participate have been affected somehow by cancer in their life whether it be the grandmother had cancer, their dad had cancer, their neighbor had cancer, etc., but you also see the people that come out and participate just because they want to support the cause and that is one of my favorite parts about Relay For Life.
Relay For Life is about everyone coming together to support one cause and that is the fight against cancer.
One of the main reasons why I relay takes me back to when I was 10 years old. My parents sat me and my older brother down and told us that Grampy had lung cancer. Now, as a 10 year old I had a hard time wrapping my brain around what exactly cancer was and how it was going to affect my Grampy. My parents did their best to explain what was going on to a 10 and 13 year old, but they could only tell us so much.
Those words coming out of a little child’s mouth should never have to be said, but my parents knew they had to answer.
My mom was gone a lot the next couple of months traveling to and from home to be with Grampy. We would visit him a few times a month, but each time we went we could see the progression of him getting worse and worse and the visits would get harder.
One day, my brother and me came home from school and our stepfather picked us up from the bus stop. He brought us inside and sat us on the couch and gave us the news that Grampy had passed peacefully in his sleep. The cancer had become too much for his body and he couldn’t hold on any longer.
Tears immediately burst from both of our eyes as we realized that we were never going to see Grampy again. That night we drove to Maryland to be with our mom and the rest of the family to get ready for the funeral.
I relay so that no one has to say good-bye to a loved one because of cancer. I relay because no one should have to grow up without a mom or a dad or a sibling because of cancer. I relay because cancer has taken too many lives.
Virginia Tech Relay For Life has given me an amazing opportunity to make a difference in so many lives. I am proud of what we have accomplished so far this year and I look forward to what the spring semester has in store. We won’t stop fighting until cancer is no more. For more infromation visit vtrelay.org.
We are proud to partner with Wellspring Living and The Make It Zero campaign in the fight against child-sex trafficking. We would also like to thank MELT for spearheading this effort. From Atlanta to Africa, poverty is a reality for too many people. We are also proud to work with Fresh For All and Philabundance in helping to spread awareness that hunger is still a problem in our world today, but it does not have to be. Check out their website to see how you can help stop hunger, in Pennsylvania and around the world.
My name is Jess, and I work at the largest hunger relief organization in the Greater Philadelphia region, Philabundance. Philabundance was created in 1984 and its mission is to drive hunger from our communities today and ultimately ending hunger forever. There are three quarters of a million people in our 9-county service area within New Jersey and Pennsylvania who face hunger every day.
I moved to Philadelphia from the Poconos in 2005 to attend Temple University, where I majored in Urban and Environmental studies. In college, I interned for the Farmers Market Program at non-profit The Food Trust, where I realized I wanted to pursue a career in the nonprofit world, specifically related to food. Upon graduation I landed the Fresh For All Coordinator position at Philabundance and in 2010 was promoted to FFA manager!
Fresh For All (FFA), one of Philabundance’s programs, is similar to a traveling farmers market which is set up at the same location every week at the same time so local residents can rely on the availability of food, specifically fresh produce, vegetables and fruit. In 2015, FFA distributed over 1.2 million pounds of food and served more than 6,000 households in PA and NJ.
Volunteers are integral in the success of our day to day operations and their hard work cannot be praised enough. One volunteer in particular, Genevieve, has always stuck with me. Genevieve is 63 years old and was laid off from her retail job. To help make ends meet, she volunteered every week (rain or shine, year-round!) and also received a portion of her weekly fruits and vegetables from us.
It inspires me that folks in the community who may not be able to give financially are willing to give so much in other ways. Because of FFA, Genevieve was able to receive food from the program as well as enrich her community through her volunteer work. She eventually discontinued her service to Philabundance to attend a culinary training program and is now employed as a cook at one of our member agencies.
The first time I went out to one of the eight Fresh For All locations, I was taken aback by the number of people in need of our services. It is one thing to try to understand the income disparity and need in our region on a conceptual level, but to see it in action was an eye-opener. It makes coming to work a lot easier each day knowing that the work we do is helping to relieve the burden of food insecurity in our area.
We have begun to serve a large number of immigrant populations including Asian and South Asian communities. We are currently working on providing our materials in additional languages to be able to serve all clients with dignity and respect.
FFA offers volunteer opportunities allowing a hands-on and interactive experience with communities benefiting from the program. Volunteers are needed to help set up and distribute produce, among other tasks.
If you are interested in volunteering for Fresh For All or are bi-lingual and speak Cantonese, Mandarin or Spanish, and would like to use your skills translating for clients at our Fresh For All distribution sites, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to get involved. Or if you’re in need of food, visit our website at www.philabundance.org for more information about FFA sites, or for the food hotline.